Today was the day Aarav's rival came over. Well, someone Aarav hated. It was more like a one-sided rivalry.
The doorbell ringed announcing Deion Brown's presence. Aarav sat on the couch and allowed his mother to open the door. His mother dressed in her traditional light blue Indian clothing and the painted red dot sitting proudly between her two brows.
"Namaskaram, Deion! Come in!" His mother said happily, making Aarav softly grunt in embarrassment.
"Hi, Mrs. Reddy," Deion said with a smile. That stupid smile that is another reason he's better than Aarav. Hopefully, Deion doesn't leave here and Aarav's parents manage to compare him to Deion saying how much better Deion is than him. He'll probably even appreciate the culture more. Aarav might as well be put up for adoption and Deion be their new shiny child.
"I've heard about the project you and my son are doing." His mother said happily.
"Oh, yeah! I was hoping you and your husband could help us! We would really appreciate it." Deion said, making Aarav's mother smile immensely.
"How respectful of you to ask so politely. Of course, we will help!" His father spoke. His mother agreed and told Deion to sit down. Deion obliged, picking the soft white faux leather recliner.
"So, what do you wish to ask?" Aarav's mother inquired.
"Well, what do you call your culture?" Deion asked.
"We are both Telugu and Hindu people. All of the things we do are a part of the Hindu and or Telugu culture. Aarav here was taught Hinduism and the Telugu language and we eat traditional Indian dishes here and mostly speak our native language," Deion quickly wrote on his notepad across from Aarav as his mother spoke. "Me and my husband moved her from South India a year before Aarav was born."
"What are some important teachings or objects in your culture?" Deion asked.
"To me," His father spoke, "Our language and our spiritual temples and altars are most important. Not to forget Brahman, either. Brahman is God. Just like the God Christians worship. However, we worship much differently."
"Do you guys go to the temple?" Deion inquired.
"Not all the time, no." His mother said, "We normally go on very special holidays like Holi or Diwali. Every day we worship at our homemade altar." Aarav tried to tune it all out. He has heard this all too often.
"What is Diwali and Holi?" Deion asks.
"Holi is a day celebrating spring! It is also called the festival of colors. We use gulal, or colored powders, and throw them at each other. In the end, we are covered in vibrant colors. It is quite fun. As for Diwali, it is the festival of lights. We celebrate the triumph of good over evil that day and light diyas, or oil lamps made from clay. Some people also call them candles, but those are simply uneducated people." His mother finished, making Deion chuckle.
"Is that all?" His father asks.
"One more thing? What are the other major holidays you celebrate?" Deion asks.
"Ah, Aarav, you handle this one." Aarav sat in shock.
"Uh, ok... We have six major holidays. Two of them we already discussed... Uh, there is Maha Shivratri that honors Lord Shiva. We often fast and pray on that day. My family takes it very seriously because of our devotion to Lord Shiva." Aarav gulped. Talking about Hinduism with his enemy was the weirdest experience ever. "Raksha Bandhan is a holiday celebrating brotherhood and love. Krishna Janmashtami is a two-day festival celebrating Lord Krishna's birth. Ganesha Chaturthi celebrates the birth of Ganesha, who is Lord Shiva's son. That's about it..." Aarav finished.
"Ok! Good, that's all! Thank you, Mister, and Misses Reddy. Thank you as well, Reddy." Deion smiles.
Aarav's eyes go wide. He should've told him to only call him Aarav around his family. "Thank you, Deion. Bye!" His mother and father smiled at Deion as he walked out.
After Deion closed the door, both his parents gave him a strange look. "Why did he call you Reddy, nani?" His mother asks.
"Oh... We... We call each other by last names at school sometimes and also on the football field. It's very common." Aarav gave a nervous chuckle.
His father still looked at him suspiciously but didn't pester. "Alright, then. I understand now." His mother said with a small smile.
Aarav sighed in relief as quietly as possible. "Thanks for the help on the project, taṇḍri and amma." Aarav said.
"We will always help you, Ramachandra." His father said with a smile.
Aarav nodded and walked to his room, trying not to get too angry with his middle name being said. He should be used to it by now, but he isn't and it still pisses him off.
"Aarav!" His brother, Nikhil, shouted from the doorway.
"What?!" Aarav shouted back.
"I made you something!" Nikhil handed Aarav an origami boat. "Look!"
"That's very nice, Nik." Aarav said, picking up his phone and ignoring his brother.
"Aarav... Do you like it?" Nikhil asked.
"Yes, now just lay it down and go. I'm kinda busy right now." Aarav said, texting Breeanna quickly. He couldn't afford for her to hate him before the prom. He had to have a girl on his arm or he'll be labeled a fairy again.
Nikhil walked out of Aarav's room with a horrible posture and staring down at the floor. His boat, still in hand.
Aarav felt a bit guilty, but having a prom date was more important. It was more important than anything.